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Mass Mentality, Culture Industry, Fascism
Saladdin Said Ahmed
ome fashionable leftist movements and populist intellectuals habitually blame the sources of information for public ignorance about the miserable state of the world. It could be argued, however, that the masses are ignorant because they prefer ignorance. A mass individual is politically apathetic and intellectually lazy. As a result, even when huge amounts of information are available, which is the case in this epoch, the masses insist on choosing ignorance. It is true that there is not enough information about what has happened in a place such as Darfur, but the masses choose not to access even the amount of information that is available. The great majority of people in China, Iran, and America, despite the fact that they have varying amounts of access to various types of “knowledge,” still tend to be misinformed. It seems that a mass individual is curious only about what directly affects his/her own personal life. I will explore the connection between mass mentality and the culture industry in order to capture the essential role of the former in the latter. I will also argue that a mass individual is the source of fascism although fascism as a phenomenon needs a mass culture in which to flourish. Culture Industry and Mass Mentality According to Adorno, the “industry” in the “culture industry” should not be taken literally. The term refers more to the standardization and techniques of distribution than to the process of production and actual creation.1 However, he seems to focus more on the manipulative character of culture industry as a system run by dominant groups. In fact, he says, “the culture industry intentionally integrates its consumers from above.”2 He rejects the idea that masses are the only source of mass culture and that is why the term “culture industry” is so crucial for him.3 This common interpretation of culture industry has been taken too far. This interpretation of the culture industry has become more like a kind of conspiracy theory that claims the masses as victims of a minority that dominates them from above through
1 Theodor W. Adorno, The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture (London: Routledge, 2001), 96. 2 Ibid., 98. 3 Ibid., 98.
© 2008 Saladdin Said Ahmed http://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_3/ahmed_june2008.pdf ISSN 1908-7330
In “Culture Industry Reconsidered. 96. this is a psychological obsession. 4 Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno.” Adorno writes. this item is unlike anything we have offered you before. Mass media can make a philosopher relatively popular. For example. Masses attract more masses and are used for that purpose in the capitalist society that is shaped by the dynamics of the market. Dominant groups can modify elements of popular culture. Masses are the target and medium of commercialism. it invests in the mass individual’s fetishistic attitude towards commodities. Commercialism and commodity fetishism turn the mass individual into an apolitical individual who serves the system of advanced capitalism even in his or her “free time”. of course. 99. Adorno himself is aware of this possible misunderstanding. Mass media can observe the conditions of what becomes a part of popular culture and accordingly put their own agenda to work within the culture industry.”5 He also says. but they cannot make philosophy a popular field. 6 Ibid. . but they cannot determine its boundaries and content because the popular mentality has its own filters and internal processes.. There is always at least one more thing claiming to bring a consumer happiness. the chain of alienations and frustrations increases continually. even though the culture industry itself could scarcely exist without adapting to the masses. 2002). rather. 98. Culture industry does not have a specific agenda to stupidize the mass individual. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments.”4 Culture is an embodiment of mentality in its collective form. They sustain the system of culture industry with their passive apolitical role just as they sustain the bigger capitalist system of domination. by Edmund Jephcott (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 5 Adorno. Mass culture is market-based. Culture Industry. he and Horkheimer state. which allegedly and actually favors the system of culture industry. The masses play a crucial role in the system of culture industry though that role is passive. trans. In a consumer society. and it is a major venue for commercials that persuade the mass individual to become a submissive consumer of endless commodities. Commercials have one major message for their obsessed subjects: this new item in particular is the key to your lost happiness. happiness is sought in commodities.80 MASS MENTALITY controlling the media and monopolizing all other canals of mass culture and ideology. “the masses are not the measure but the ideology of the culture industry. which makes the consumer more submissive to the addictive system of consumption. “the entire practice of the culture industry transfers the profit motive naked onto cultural forms. “the mentality of the public. and the culture industry functions accordingly. The mass mentality is attracted to certain things and distracted by others. but they cannot alone be held responsible for the “production” of the culture. and since.”6 Culture industry makes every cultural item just another commodity that subscribes to the principles of the capitalist market. fetishism is its driving power. It cannot simply be a product created by elites. is a part of the system not an excuse for it.
However. Some fundamental principles of capitalism have not changed since Marx’s time and one of them is that the source of power in a capitalist system is accumulation of capital that depends on the principle of maximizing profit. That means corporations that control the media produce what is profitable: what is popular. .. otherwise it would simply bankrupt within the bigger capitalist system. Ibid. but again. that which sees the masses as the source of mass culture and that which sees the dominant groups as the source of mass culture. once we step into the realm of the masses. 7 8 Ibid. However. It is more accurate to say that the mass mentality and dominant groups are the two folds of the culture industry. it would also be foolish to dismiss the role of domination in the culture industry. should be analyzed in its socio-historical context rather than in terms of the simple political domination of some class or group over another. With masses.”8 Thus. The most essential principle of any nonnon-profit corporation in the “free market” system is profit. as the culture industry would have us believe. and values are also created or fueled within the system of the industry. “power” takes the form of fascism and “knowledge” takes the form of culture. desires. as opposed to individual subjects. AHMED 81 Most corporations have one simple ideology and that is the basic ideology of the capitalist system itself: profit. as I will explain later. However “domination” should not be reduced to a direct political notion of domination. The question of domination. the chain of the concepts will shift. We learn from Foucault’s genealogy that the question of domination cannot be interpreted in isolation from the question of knowledge and neither of them can be interpreted in isolation of the history of the subject. “the culture industry misuses its concern for the masses in order to duplicate. Truth or knowledge itself is a matter of industry. This discussion will become clearer when I look at popular culture later on in this essay. which it presumes is given and unchangeable. Of course. the wants. Adorno writes. The relation between the mass mentality and the process of culture industry is a dialectical one. “the customer is not king. Both simple interpretations.S. In Adorno’s words. not its subject but its object. are equally inaccurate. reinforce and strengthen their mentality. culture circulates between masses and the dominant forces. not according to a mono-dimensional power relation. there is a two-fold relationship between culture as a monopoly and popular mentality within the system of the culture industry. but according to hegemonic process that involves both persuasion and consent. The culture industry is not a simple relation between manufacturers and consumers or between the dominant and the dominated. Rather. 99.”7 The theory of culture industry came about in the first place to emphasize the fact that there is a process of domination within the process of formation of culture. as Foucault would say.
Dialectic of Enlightenment. it is rooted in mass culture. which means the challenge is very real. fascism has found its masks. In Horkheimer and Adorno’s words. Meanwhile. The collective outcome of this socio-psychological fire is what bakes culture over the course of history. There is more than one way to show this dialectical relation between culture and fascism from the point of view of critical theory. especially in the climate of political correctness. Clever people have always made things easy for barbarians. by Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 11 Ibid.82 MASS MENTALITY If Foucault’s arguments regarding. 15 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. then fascism and culture also always imply each other. Deleuze and Guattari state. fascism was impossible in the West. 1987). 13 Theodor W. 10 Horkheimer and Adorno. “Culture has evolved under the shadow of the executioner. 174. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon Books.. and hence it is not addressed critically because it is assumed not to exist as a popular force. “according to the clever people.” in Foucault Reader. and social convictions of an individual often form a broad and coherent pattern. because they are so stupid. “The Body of Condemned. ed. economic. today’s fascism derives its power from its invisibility. In this sense.”9 are sound. “terror and civilization are inseparable. 1.. 1984). The intelligentsia. and that this pattern is an expression of deeplying trends in his personality. rather. Horkheimer and Adorno assert the Freudian hypothesis that explains material production in terms of the fear from the outside. trans. The authors of The Authoritarian Personality declare that their main hypostasis is. Unlike fascism in the 1920s and 1930s. where political correctness highlights what people utter in public rather than their mentality. “what makes fascism dangerous is its molecular or micropolitical power. which makes it less detectable. “that the political. 1950).”14 Especially in the contemporary intellectual climate of the United Sates and Canada. 215. Capitalism and Schizophrenia.”15 Pseudo-intellectuals 9 Michel Foucault. Horkheimer and Adorno state. 179-180. Even to relax the former means the beginning of disintegration. 180.. 12 Ibid. unnoticed. A Thousand Plateaus. . “power and knowledge directly imply each other.”13 Fascism is not the product of an oppressive agenda put forward by a certain dominant group as pseudo-intellectuals often imply. 173. and this is what makes fascism perpetually present.”12 Does this mean there is a socio-historical consistency behind fascism? Yes.”10 A human being develops his or her individual defense system in response to the external resentence represented by every power figure. Adorno et al.”11 They continue. too idle to be concerned about anything that is not boldly uttered. as if bound together by a “mentality” or “spirit”. 14 Ibid. The Authoritarian Personality ( New York: Harper & Row Publications. for it is a mass movement: a cancerous body rather than a totalitarian organism. and to some extent in Europe. has provided a perfect environment over the last few decades for fascism to creep into and fester within the sectors of mass culture. “One cannot abolish terror and retain civilization.
AHMED 83 oversimplify everything. which is the last thing to be present in a mass-production society in which even political leftism is produced for mass usage. whether races. the essence of one’s own group. culture is exactly what “[gives] meaning to a world which makes them meaningless. Adorno. 16 17 . by Henry W.” The germs of fascism are transformed from the fascist communitarian foci into the “individual” mentality of the subjects by the prejudices that are built into the structures of the dominant ideology which is reflected in the main stream media. The worst thing in this political stupidization is that fascism grows in almost everyone unnoticed. in the fascist mentality. and major media corporations. bad. The proliferation and internalization of fascism take place through the propagation and internalization of ideologies that capitalize a locallyconstructed collective identity (culture) according to which the mere existence of “the other” represents a normative threat to the fragile situation of “our purity. Pickford (New York: Colombia University Press. Eventually. Interventions and Catchwords. 18 “They who were never allowed untroubled ownership of the civil right which should have gained them human dignity are again called “the Jews” without distinction. nationalities. Meanwhile. trans. The evil and the good are made too obvious to leave any need for real critical thinking. needs the existence of the “other” as the “infidel. 144. “The formation of stereotypes . Critical Models. promotes collective narcissism. .. This view is utterly racist because it treats some very different peoples who are entitled to individual identity and freedom of belief as one homogenous race whose members could not hold different beliefs. .” Ibid. 161.” For the fascist the very classification process of him/herself under a certain collective identity is one and the same process with the classification of the others under an antipode category. imperceptibly become the good itself and the foreign group. every other individual is also nothing but a representative of another collective body. Dialictic of Enlightenment. That way it is easy for the educated middle-class person to take a “political” stance without thinking critically about the state of affairs. In today’s West. 205.” in order for his or her image of the Islamist brothers and sisters to make any sense. In this sense the phenomenon of fascism is an existential crisis of individualism. some contemporary fascists in the West need their own image of “the Muslims”18 in Horkheimer and Adorno.S. Adorno states. the others. they always choose an easy target such as a certain political administration. For fascists. Those qualities with which one identifies oneself. This mentality is sickly reductionist: it reduces all humans into a few types. 1998). they could not be a secular for example. faiths. The potential fascists are the people whose lack of critical individual identity pushes them to search for an alternative passionate collective identity that can invite them into the festive spirit of one extended brotherhood and sisterhood. Recognizing fascism requires individual skills of criticism.”17 An Islamist. the world would be reduced to “they” and “us.”16 For the person whose identity is determined almost entirely by his or her collective background. Theodor W. almost all those who come from Middle Eastern and North African families are called “the Muslims” without distension. for instance. As a result. or cultures. regions.
education itself became sick.. it turns subjects to paranoiac reductionist people. 51. The disregard for the subject makes things easy for the administration. they demand the one dish they have once been served. too. 163. entertaining. to the stupid. I intend to use the term “stupidity” as a descriptive term rather than as a judgmental one. 21 Ibid. but they are confirmed in their neurotic stupidity. and uncomplicated: in one word. 25 Ibid. 24 Adorno. quite irrespective of how their musical capacities are related to the specific musical culture of earlier social phases.. says. “stereotypes replace intellectual categories.”23 Culture is the screen which provides a pre-digested picture of the world to the members of the established group. “There is actually a neurotic mechanism of stupidity in listening. 167. education and culture spread. so it minimizes the chore of thinking for the submitted members of the group. “With bourgeois property. 19 20 .84 MASS MENTALITY order for their brotherhood and sisterhood to function. It is the commodity through which the group perceives the world. 166. The culture industry produces what is stupid because the stupid is the consumable.”24 He adds. this paranoiac reductionism. But as the real emancipation of humanity did not coincide with the enlightenment of the mind. Regressive listeners behave like children. The world represents a constant conspiracy to the group. 23 Ibid. describing popular listening and popular music. Adorno.20 Mass culture provides the members of the group with patterns of stereotypes that are formed around the paranoiac stance which is the group’s main stance toward the outside world. and its dynamo is paranoia. Culture Industry. a world dominated by mass culture is necessarily a fascist world. and the established group is paranoid about the outside world because its members project their madness in the world.. which is inherent in the mass culture. “regressive. It seems that this kind of reductionist attitude applies to fascism in general. Ibid.”25 Ibid.21 Eventually.”19 Paranoia is the central theme in a culture. is the role which contemporary mass music plays in the psychological household of its victims.”22 Intellectually. considering every “individual” as a distinct subject with individuality is too demanding for a paranoid mind in the age of mass production.. is the main characteristic of the mass mentality that seems to be normal only because it is the mentality of the majority. 22 Ibid. 47. Again and again and with stubborn malice. driving paranoia into the dark corners of society and the psyche. Thinking becomes “an old-fashioned luxury” and “Everyone is labeled as a friend or a foe. In the era of mass production. too. Horkheimer and Adorno write. simple. They are not merely turned away from more important music. the arrogantly ignorant rejection of everything unfamiliar is its sure sign. Mass mentality in our era is attracted to the superficial. Therefore. 163-166. Stupidity is a characteristic of popular culture..
justifies itself and establishes itself all the more firmly in so far as it constantly refers to those who cannot digest anything not already predigested. Routine anesthetizes the mind. Therefore. Basically. “The repetitiveness. Vol. 2 <http://www. our age is the golden age for mass mentality and its manifestation in mass culture. AHMED 85 What Adorno speaks of is the antagonism between culture and individualism. predictable. but mass mentality is too idle to digest any culture higher than popular culture. “the pre-digested quality of the product prevails.28 Popular music is pre-digested for its listeners through the process of standardization. Every individual case represents something new. thought the distinction between popular art and high art is created by advanced capitalism. “On Popular Music. popular music kills thought. or what is mistakenly called work of art.S. Repetition of simple patterns is the ideal method of creating routine. 67. in popular music the parts are replicable. Never has repetition been as easy as it is in the age of mechanical reproduction.”26 Mass mentality is addicted to routine.29 Mass mentality is addicted to stupidity. It is true that popular culture is not completely a product of the masses. Art within the frame of popular culture is mere entertainment..shtml>. in the age of advanced capitalism.” and. In fact. however.27 Therefore. a reference to “the other.rug.. In “On Popular Music. and the ubiquity of modern mass culture tend to make for automatized reactions and to weaken the forces of individual resistance. a threat to mass mentality. It is baby-food: permanent self-reflection based upon the infantile compulsion towards the repetition of needs which it creates in the first place. 26 27 . Adorno. 28 Theodor Adorno. 67. the selfsameness. unlike serious music which through centuries has stimulated contemplation and thoughtful reflection.” Adorno says “standardization” is the hallmark of popular music as opposed to non-standardization with respect to serious music. which is precisely what a mass individual seeks. Culture Industry. mass mentality through its practice of culture does not hesitate to use its fascist power to eliminate any individualist case.” in Journal on Popular Culture. unfamiliar.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/SWA/On_popular_music_1. 160. and automatically structured. Adorno says.icce. thus. neither high culture nor popular culture conveys a motivation of resistance and expanding Ibid. Consumption rules the production of popular art. That is why the fundamental rule of popular music is repetition. and as such it has to require as little thinking as possible. different.”30 A pre-digested production is a production. that is why it cannot critically adopt works of art that require serious intellectual participation from the individual recipient. 23. Adorno’s concern is the relation between art and human consciousness. that requires the minimum amount of thinking from the recipient. 29 Ibid. Ibid. 2008. 30 Adorno. He thinks that. March 17..
The popular mentality is not interested in serious philosophical analyses of the world. popular. 38. “Art. instead. this manipulated freedom is a part of the dialectic of culture industry. by Francis Frascina and Jonathan Harris (New York: Icon Editions. 31 Theodor W. Even a philosopher such as Marx or Nietzsche did not become popular until they were tragically simplified. and rebelliousness. save culture industry from death because they perpetually provide it with new sealable commodities.e. he supported the idea of “autonomous art. eds. Culture industry crucially needs the social groups who reject a fashion through creating another potential fashion. Autonomy and Mass Culture. Hence. it seems that after the Second World War. but it is also very beneficial for the very system of culture industry. As long as some groups are attracted to “outside-ness”. 32 Francis Frascina and Jonathan Harris. The very strategy of advertising depends on attacking the “common” as the “outdated”. Besides. The essential suppliers of culture industry are the popular groups who supposedly and allegedly rebel from the conventional. it commodifies whatever that can be profitable. it is a dynamic process of creativity and hegemony which functions dialectically. rather. i.. A philosopher. who also seek popular attention and thus submit to the standards of popular mentality. it has the ability to adopt every idea that can become popular.”32 Culture industry does not have a certain criteria for art. In reality.86 MASS MENTALITY human freedom. but it also relies on simplification. Therefore. Popular mentality is the crucial condition that makes culture industry possible in the first place. anger. Those groups. . it necessarily responds to popular mentality. rather it adopts them and turns them to domestic elements of culture. Culture industry would die off if it created a set of cultural items that would control the so-called main stream mentality for a long term. It does not fight people’s ideas. 1992). Adorno. ed. it is interested in one dimensional beliefs. Culture industry gives people what people want to take and it invests people’s boredom. Like material industry. would not become a popular icon as much as a rock star with a bunch of simply stated slogans becomes a popular icon. Culture industry is not another kind of industry. It is not just acceptable to rebel against what is presently considered mainstream.” in Art in Modern Culture:An Anthology of Critical Texts. cultural industry constantly discredits its own products in order to be able to market its “newer” products. the raw material of the culture industry is guaranteed. 75. Common dissatisfactions that are expressed in forms of fashionable middle-class intellectual complaints are mistakenly thought to be a counter force of culture industry and they are considered as a harvest of “freedom”. but it is a part of the industry. Art in Modern Culture: An Anthology of Critical Texts. The relation between the system of culture industry and popular mentality has not only been simplified to dominant and dominated relation. Culture industry does not represent a static case of control. rather. some groups will always be attracted to “outside-ness” because boredom is built-in to culture.31 Nevertheless. with serious intellectual activities.
both popular and serious. and most products of mass media are advertisements because the recipient in the system of culture industry is nothing but a potential consumer. it is difficult for film to become art. the product that has an exchange value which advertises for itself and other products and practices as well. However.. the masses do not appreciate them for aesthetic reasons. Also. as the heart of mass culture.34 A novel that wins the Nobel Prize for Literature because of its artistic significance would later become popular because of the prize it won. Adorno’s adjective. for Adorno the important question is how art. 7. film is a very controversial case of “art” because of the too realistic relation between film and its objects. 34 J. for the same reason. The mass individual follows what is popular in order to feel updated. For him. they create works that can be exciting for the less cultivated audiences and. “Art” in the system of the culture industry is not an attempt to recreate the world. 159. I think it is in the nature of some works of art to be able to speak to unsophisticated audience as well as to a critical recipient because they produce multiple discourses and receiving of each takes a different intellectual apparatus. In the age of mass culture. 35 Adorno. Regardless of the nature of the works produced by mass media. This is the idea of advertisement. and the masses who were formerly excluded from the regular audiences of art are now the “consumers” of popular culture. at the same time. provocative for the more cultivated recipients. at the same time. For example. film produces collective behaviors among mass audiences. A mass individual’s 33 Adorno has a unique theory on cinema explained best in “Transparences on Film” (178-186).” but they are also philosophically provocative. what matters is to stay with the popular.35 The culture industry has drastically changed the sociology of art and intelligentsia. films such as The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Matrix (1999) have drawn audiences from a variety of intellectual backgrounds.S. 161. it is important not to have a distinct character. Popular culture is the force of unification that has its tremendous effects on sustaining the forces of production under the capitalist relations of production. 36 Ibid.36 The popular becomes more popular regardless of artistic value.33 Therefore. M. “multilayered. along with popular music. Hermann Hesse’s novels are interesting to readers who look only for entertainment and simple “wisdom.” is an appropriate description of mass media. AHMED 87 Mass media produce multilayered works in order to target the greatest number of recipients. It is an amazement that rehabilitates the labor force and. 2001). . Berstein Introduction to The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture (London: Routledge. Some works of art can capture the attention of millions and this sounds strange to those who take the distinction between low art and high art seriously. Since mass media draw as large an audience as possible. The traditional cultured elites have disappeared. They can speak to different sensational stimulations and intellectual speculations. is manipulated within the system of the culture industry. Culture Industry. rather it too is run by the principle of maximizing profit. Adorno thinks the division between high art and popular art is maintained by the culture industry. Adorno always considers film.
. 234. . as did Brecht who famously tried to eliminate the distance between art and the audience. Canetti says. and ed. That fact is known very well by the market runners. What happens is that creating “individuality” becomes the task of the culture industry. Aesthetics and Politics. even when an artistic work. In a radio debate between Adorno and Canetti. the product’s popularity becomes the strongest means of gaining more popularity until it is sold to millions of masses who are exposed to its advertisements.. Everything is already evaluated. Adorno saw signs of a huge manipulation in the system of popular culture and a decline of resistance that he thought is maintained in serious art. Adorno repeatedly decried what he considered to be a bad influence of the Brechtian Marxism on Benjamin.37 In the decay of the aural distance between the work of art and the people Benjamin saw a progressive potentiality. which is especially important. Adorno. and he was optimistic about the mass influence of cinema. In response.38 Instead of a promise of revolution.88 MASS MENTALITY taste is miserably dependent. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction of Art. ed.39 The totalitarian and the manipulative nature of popular culture threaten individualism and freedom of choice because popular culture overshadows art and when it adopts a work of art.” in Illuminations.. Therefore. .” in Thesis Eleven 45 (1996). but the masses are in the same position of passivity. 40 Elias Canetti. 126. trans. Adorno asks Canetti about the role of masses in fascism and National Socialism. for the mass individual. .Walter Benjamin saw in the democratization of art an element of proletarian revolution. 5. and without the deliberate artificial excitation of ever larger crowds. 2007). ranked. those whose measurement belong to the masses. and that is necessarily an anti-individualist form of individuality because its traits depend on the descriptions set up by popular mentality and it is directed to the same mentality. “. A mass individual’s passive affinity with the popular provides a golden opportunity for culture industry to work hand in hand with capitalism. Brace and World Inc. without the growth of crowds. it will only commercialize it. A mass individual lacks aesthetical judgment. it does not become popular for the artistic value it possesses. Essays and Reflections. 38 For example see. the power of dictatorships would be completely unthinkable. such as Beethoven’s ninth symphony. “Discussion with Theodor W. 182. 1968). . Culture Industry. Rodney Taylor (London: Verso. Also see Adorno. he or she instead has a predilection for whatever is popular. which is highly collective. This epoch is full of performance but it lacks recipients. becomes popular. and valued. by Hannah Arendt (New York: Harcourt. “The best-seller book” invites those who lack a sense of judgment. Theodor W. dictatorships we have experienced are made up entirely of crowds . 121. Once they succeed at popularizing some product (sometimes by faking popularity). 39 Ibid.”40 Canetti also claims that the “crowd symbols” with which certain crowds relate easily are a major motivation for crowds to act because of the effect those symbols have on the 37 Walter Benjamin. Mass media intend to damage individuality because they constantly put forward popular dreams in the form of individuality.. Adorno et al.
43 For more on this discussion see the second chapter of: Dominic Strinati. but if a non-white commits such crime. Ibid. What forms the core of the fascist unity in mass culture is the alleged threat from the outside world. Fighting the “internal enemies” never satisfies mass culture’s fascist need for enmity.43 Culture industry is capitalism’s contemporary method for a complete commoditization of culture. mass culture creates one.42 The Frankfurt School realized that capitalism could control the threatening spots within the body of its social and economic system. AHMED 89 individual.41 Both Canetti and Adorno emphasize that the major force that makes fascism and totalitarianism possible is the masses as a physical presence of actual human beings. the different. so the reproduction of the image of an enemy is the only force that is powerful enough to make the masses feel like one. Mass Mentality. as opposed to critical thinking. If there is no enemy. Mass culture is paranoiac by virtue of its collective submission to an irrational perspective of the world. Fascism is a fetishistic celebration of the collective spirit that is embodied in mass culture. so it looks for enemies and their images outside in order to feel a real threat. Mass culture depicts the minorities as sleeping threats who have suspicious loyalties. Mass culture is the realm where mass individuals come together under a regime of totems and fetishism. If numerous members of a minority prove to be excellent citizens.S. Adorno focused on the subtle hegemonic apparatus of the culture industry as a main tool in the hands of capitalism to disaffect possibilities of revolution by controlling the vast majority of people.” but if one member of the same minority commits a crime. 41 42 . If a white man shoots at his schoolmates in the US. there is nothing humane enough to unite the masses. The commoditization of culture results in conformity. An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture (New York: Routledge.. For that reason. 5. Fascism. the fascists on one side of the world serve the fascists on the other side of the world in the Ibid.. It is easy now for the mass media to point at the Nazi Devil and speak of the injustice that was done to the Jews. This image of the other. 2004). The mentality that demonized the Jews in Nazi Germany is the same mentality that demonizes certain ethnic and cultural minorities in today’s West. In capitalist society. The Frankfurt School pointed to the manipulative capabilities of capitalism through which capitalism could discharge real possibilities of mass revolutions. Culture Industry Mass culture cannot live without the image of an enemy. but at the same time mass culture reproduces other images of imaginary enemies out of defenseless minorities whose members are seen more like timed bombs rather than individual human beings. it is a case of an abnormal individual. 4. as the enemy is what sustains mass culture. the whole minority is guilty by association. everyone in his or her ethnic group is responsible. they are assumed to be people who learnt “our way of life.
a member of x-minority is already unable to be anything but an x. had won a Nobel Prize. The first piece of “information” that the president of the Virginia Tech University gave to the media following the shooting at the university on April 17. is counted as a Muslim regardless of his or her religion. A white person’s identity is driven from his or her personal discourse. and the stereotyping mind is addicted to the typical fascist stupidity. Instead. so to create the image of internal enemies all what is needed is to find an ethnic or a cultural link between the minority and the external enemy.” If the shooter. There is nothing that can hold together the society that has been torn apart by antagonistic conflicts of capitalism but the hate of an enemy. every minority member is easily stereotyped.” and take pride from that. In “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda. Fascism of the majority desperately needs minorities to prove the constancy of a threat. The fascist definition of “us” is one and the same process of the classifying and stereotyping the other. Minorities are the stimuli of the fascist passion. which is just the first step towards dehumanizing and then demonizing him or her. An Asian is nothing but an Asian. he is not one of us. He credits Freud’s study of mass psychology for predicting fascism in the . of the identity that enables the weakest person to say “us. Minority members are projects for potential images of potential enemies. The soldier does not provoke the image of “a murderer” in mass mentality. the American and Canadian citizens who happened to have Japanese ancestors were viewed as nothing but an extension of the enemy. Stereotyping. whereas. and as a Muslim he or she is seen as a potential Islamist/terrorist regardless of his or her individuality. which is the psychological escaping gate from banality. Populist Western fascism multiplied the image of fascist Islamism because without such an image it would die off.” The message was “the bad guy is from somewhere else. Only through the exclusion of the other can a notion of a collective identity be constructed. is the substitute for the chore of thinking for the minds that minimize the act of thinking.” Adorno studies the relationship between the bonds that turns “individuals” to masses. Once Japan entered the Second World War. A citizen whose last name happened to be Mohammad. How else the minorities can be accused of dangerous external loyalty? For the mass mentality. who actually grew up in America. Hence. he would have been referred to as an American. a nonwhite person’s identity is fixed because he or she is not seen as somebody who could have a personal discourse. A “soldier” is someone who dies for “us” in a war against “them.90 MASS MENTALITY best possible way: each side embodies the perfect enemy to the other. as an intellectual disorder. mass culture is fascist from the moment of its formation. 2007 was about the race of the shooter: “an Asian. A Mohammad is nothing but a Muslim. A black person is a black and nothing besides. it is a poetic word. The stereotyped is thrown out of the area of individual consideration. basically because he or she has been deprived of individuality. At the same time. Fascist forces provide each other with excuses for more violence and to persuade more people to join them.” Popular culture gives rise to every possible form of fascism because it takes root in the myth of collective identity.
”44 According to Adorno. Individuals lose their rationality when they join masses. “he [Freud] tries to find out which psychological forces result in the transformation of individuals into a mass. 136.48 He says Freud noticed how “love” in organized groups is masked by religious images and rituals. the problem of mass psychology is closely related to the new type of psychological affliction so characteristic of the era which for socio-economic reasons witnesses the decline of the individual and his subsequent weakness. Le Bon’s contribution is also crucial in the realization of “psychology of masses. the media did little else besides extol the “wisdom of the father-leader. 135. however..”47 Adorno then searches for the mechanisms that change sexual energy to feelings on which masses are constructed internally. 48 Ibid. “Idealization..52 In Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.51 Fascist propaganda. The children feel the need for total obedience to the father.50 Freud explains the relation between a leader and the followers (masses) in terms of a father-children relation. Adorno writes.46 Adorno tries to connect that with fascism as a “rebellion borrows its energies partly from other psychological agencies which are pressed into the service of the unconscious. “According to Freud. is tantamount to an exposition of the fundamental issue of fascist manipulation. That is why fascist media concentrate on the “greatness” of the leader rather than the problems in reality and possible objective corresponding politics.”45 For Freud. 134. AHMED 91 twentieth century. Adorno explains.53 Adorno. 139. Even after Saddam Hussein was executed.” according to Freud.” to use one of their own expressions. ‘If the individuals in the group are combined into a unity.. 53 Ibid. They want to be governed because they cannot bear their freedom. Ibid. 44 45 . who is the representative of the super ego. which for them is a sign of divinity. 138-139. The herd feels the need to submit to an absolute authority. 50 Ibid.49 Fascism needs to turn “love” to authoritarian fetishism and that is exactly what shapes the pattern of fascism. there must surely be something to unite them. 51 Ibid. some Iraqis claimed that to have seen his image on the face of the moon. Culture Industry.S.’ This quest. 137. 46 Ibid.” though Freud was the first psychologist who did not disgust the masses and instead he wondered what turned groups of individuals into masses. 52 Ibid. what happens to individuals when they form masses can be explained in terms of libidinal phenomena.. and this bond might be precisely the thing that is characteristic of a group.. 47 Ibid. Adorno explains. is the process according to which sexual energy is transformed to a fascist bond among the members of the herd and between themselves and their leader. 138. 49 Ibid.. relives the primal image of “the father” which stimulates the psychological thirst for obedience.
58 Ibid. For Freud. representing the general principle of idealization. For bad things that happen in the world. such as armies. and chat with them. The leader seeks this “modesty” only as a condition of perfection. the whole outside world is a project for the creation of an “enemy” through propaganda. 147. Islamist fascism. he or she appears to be one of them.92 MASS MENTALITY Adorno identifies the distinctive characteristics of a fascist leader. 143. simply points at the US and Israel. That is to say the leader’s image is a combination of perfect traits.. The right wing forces and fascists in the West. However.. Adorno explains. The image of the leader always stands at the top. point at the Islamic enemy to justify Ibid. The leader’s appearance as an average person is nothing but “modesty.” who believe in the religion of love.. Even when there is no identifiable enemy.. in Hitler’s words. “responsibility towards above. every fascist group needs the existence of other antagonistic fascist groups in order to justify its own fascist discourse to the members of its group. 59 Ibid. Islamist fascism and a corresponding fascist block in the West simply feed each other.”57 Freud thinks even the groups whose ideal is “love.” have the same classification of “us. and “they. often by accusing the latter for all kinds of conspiracy. Fascist groups.59 In this sense. I think this is not a contradiction. authority towards below. For example. Saddam Hussein used to be seen on TV going to workingclass Iraqi homes to eat. 144. The principle is.55 The hierarchical order guarantees the exercise of sado-masochistic tendencies of the fascists within their system.58 Those who do not believe in the principle of love eventually are hated because they are not good enough to believe in love. on the other hand. the leader does not need love because he is over and above such emotional needs. The groups that claim “love” as their fundamental principle generate hatred against the out-groups. on the one hand. are societies with their own internal rituals and hierarchies. “the dichotomy between in. Ibid. Collective identity in all its forms such as religion and culture generate enmity towards the outside world.54 The leader appears as the over-man. the Iraqi people had to see these “normal” behaviors of their leader wherever they turned from TV shows to newspapers and wall portraits. at the same time. 141. one of which is “modesty. however. drink.” though a false one. 54 55 . the people are automatically supposed to love the leader.and out-groups is of so deep-rooted a nature that it affects even those groups whose ‘ideas’ apparently exclude such reactions.” Again. and the emphasizing of the differences between the in-group and the out-group.” who do not believe in the religion of love. 57 Ibid. Another characteristic of fascist discourse is the undermining of individual differences within the fascist group. 56 Quoted in Ibid.”56 The most terrible exercise of power is committed against the dominated minorities.
by Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1950). 45 (1996). 146. 2 <http://www.. Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Canada References Adorno. AHMED 93 their fascist agenda. trans. 1984). 74-79.60 People who have been damaged by the hideous circle of labor and consumption long for meaning in their collective projects. who are too weak to live as independent individuals and see others as independent free individuals. is fascism. Canetti. Brock University. Department of Philosophy. 2001). Vol. by Henry W. This brotherhood is built on repression.S. Walter.. The more threatened the members of the group feel by the outside world. “The Body of Condemned. by Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon Books. 1968). Benjamin. . The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture (London: Routledge. 1998). Adorno.. Foucault. 1-15..” in Illuminations. trans. Francis and Jonathan Harris eds. et al. Art in Modern Culture: An Anthology of Critical Texts (New York: Icon Editions. the conflicting fascist groups seem very similar regarding their religious. trans. Adorno. Essays and Reflections. Fascism is therefore a normative element of culture. ed. ___________. 1987). Theodor W. by Hannah Arendt (New York: Harcourt. 1992). Frascina. The direct product of this unity of sick individuals. Deleuze. March 17. and discriminatory discourses. Pickford (New York: Colombia University Press. the more they repress their individuality and transform their relationships to fascist brotherhood. Theodor W.. Introduction to The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture (London: Routledge. Critical Models. “Art. 2008.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/SWA/On_p opular_music_1. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction of Art. 60 Ibid. Berstein. by Francis Frascina and Jonathan Harris (New York: Icon Editions.icce. 1-28. 2007).rug.” in Journal on Popular Culture. and this longing relies on excluding and demonizing the outside: the different. ___________. ___________. Aesthetics and Politics.” in Art in Modern Culture: An Anthology of Critical Texts. J. ed. (London: Verso. Brace and World Inc. ed. M. not equality. Autonomy and Mass Culture. “Discussion with Theodor W. by Rodney Taylor. Not strangely. Adorno. “On Popular Music. 2001). Elias. Interventions and Catchwords.” in Foucault Reader. 1992).” in Thesis Eleven.. Michel.. Theodor W. The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper & Row Publications. moralist.shtml>. et al.
2002).94 MASS MENTALITY Horkheimer. . California: Stanford University Press. An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture (New York: Routledge. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Strinati. by Edmund Jephcott (Stanford. and Theodor Adorno. Max. trans. 2004). Dominic.
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